Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sotterley Plantation: Plantation On The Bay


I took a couple of days off to explore the Maryland coast. This a really nice trip because I have never been to the Eastern Shore and all the places that I read about in history like Cambridge, Maryland where Harriet Tubman was a slave. They have an African American History museum dedicated to Tubman in that town, but it was closed. As a matter of fact, the days or hours of operation were not clearly posted. We also had a chance to see the Chesapeake Bay along Solomon Island. It was beautiful. The people there were a bit strange and seem to lack social skills. Perhaps they have been ill treated by tourist so they really just look past you as if you are not there. I still had a nice time just traveling with my wife.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, Md. I have never been on a plantation so I was very interested in experiencing that first hand. We arrived on the plantation an hour before the tour would start.


Plantation Flower

There were only a few cars in the parking lot so it seemed that very little people were there to tour the nearly 100-acre facility. It was quiet and lonely. I was instantly taken by the landscape and the rolling hills. We stepped out of the car and started our walk towards the visitor center. Have you ever been to a plantation? If so, how was that experience for you? My life would change at that very moment. I’ll share the rest of this story with you on Thursday’s post.

22 comments:

Ananda said...

stephen, sounds like this trip to the eastern shore won't be your last one. it is a beautiful place. lots of history. lots of quiet echos of ancestral voices ... for me that's what happens when i go do to places like solomon's island and the chesapeake bay... it is healing to reconnect with our past. i love the photos of the plantation. i have never been to the plantation. mount vernon and monticello are the only places i have gone to that had slave cabins. i am not sure if they are labeled plantations. monticello is a place i like to go every few years because it feels like a part of my soul is there. perhaps i am just a sally hemmings history buff. barbara chase ribaud's book on sally hemmings and her daughter were always my favorites. anyway, the sunflower photo is my favorite. it is so oshun ... glad you had a good time. i look forward to reading more about your travels... you are gonna be the favorite teacher with the bestest ever stories. shoot you tell some good ones with history layered in the middle like this chocolate chip ice cream cookie i tried to chew on sunday at my meditation class potluck. my mouth was sore from dental work, but i was determined to chew a piece of it. that's how your stories are... no matter what you wanna hear them... absorb them ... and learn more despite any resistance like other things to do or study... you keep us all on our toes wanting to learn and now more ... i am gonna look up that plantation. see how that works... you go my brothalove. paz, ananda

Stephen Bess said...

ananda-
Thank you so much for those very kind words. I have much to share on Thurday. I didn't want to post it all today because it would've been too much for one post. Now, I want some chocolate cake. *yummy*

Dancewithme2 said...

Hey Stephen. I'm glad to read that you had a wonderful weekend. Your self-guided tour of the coast sounds educational and enjoyable. I visited a plantation back in '95 when I first travelled to New Orleans. It was really overwhelming. I could feel the emotions of the spirits. Although, visiting a plantation is often sad - I was amazed by the beauty I witnessed. Everything from the old trees to the master's home were absolutey gorgeous and very well preserved.

Dancewithme2 said...

ps. Ananda hit the nail on the head that the sunflower is SO oshun. What simplistic beauty and power in that flower.

Stephen Bess said...

dance-
Thanks! I did have a great time. I'll have more pictures for you in my next post. I really love the picture of the flower too. It was all alone in this big field. It took some bending and leaning, but I think that I got a good shot. :)
Thanks for sharing that plantation experience. My feelings were similar.

Professor Zero said...

Omigod, you went to Eastern Maryland, I haven't been there but I had an ancestor there, who had a plantation, and Frederick Douglass lived there as a little boy, and describes it in his life narrative. In the 1880s, the family published a tract in which they attempt to console themselves about what FD revealed. The tract says FD was very bright, but he was a small child then, and children remember things imperfectly, and what he says is unfortunately true, and they regret it,
but he makes one error: although the family did commit all the crimes he mentions, they never committed any of them inside the big house. Yeah, right. My mother visited this plantation around 1990 and when she gave them her full maiden name, they were flabbergasted, Omigod a direct descendant. She said it was very weird
because they were so proud of it all, and expected her to be, also.

The first plantations I went to were in Brazil and they were still functioning.
As before abolition, but in freedom. The basic difference is, torture instruments are no longer in use, and are enclosed instead in museum cases.
The workers now are direct descendants of the slaves, and they are still moved between the plantation and the house in town, depending on the needs of the owners and the season.

I've also visited some plantations in Louisiana, some turned into tourist attractions; most of them have gotten rid of the slave quarters though; tour guides refer to slaves as 'servants'.
They are proud of all of this stuff and
find it romantic. I've visited some which are now just used as houses, and these are more pleasant, but some have ghosts (and one can see why).

To me, the oddest thing about plantations is that the ones which have been turned into B&Bs, are popular honeymoon destinations. On their honeymoons, people want to go and imagine that they live on a plantation.
It is by far the kinkiest sex fantasy I have ever encountered.

Michelle said...

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back! I've always wanted to visit a plantation and I'd like to really spend some time on the East Coast soaking up our history. I also have always wanted to travel along the route of the Underground Railroad. A few weeks ago, I met Joan Southgate (author Martha Southgate's mom) a woman who at 73 yrs old walked 519 miles along the UR. I'm sure our ancestors were speaking to her every step of the way! She wrote a book about her experience, entitled IN THEIR PATH. Link: http://www.intheirpath.org.

Anyhoo, I can't wait to read more about your experience. I'm sure it was life changing and affirming! Teach on, Brother Bess!

Professor Zero said...

Dancewithme2, Ananda, Stephen:

It was really overwhelming. I could feel the emotions of the spirits. Although, visiting a plantation is often sad - I was amazed by the beauty I witnessed. Everything from the old trees to the master's home were absolutey gorgeous and very well preserved.

lots of quiet echos of ancestral voices ... for me that's what happens when i go do to places like solomon's island and the chesapeake bay... it is healing to reconnect with our past.

Thanks for sharing that plantation experience. My feelings were similar.

Very nice to see people reclaiming those places from the other side of the fence, as it were. Perhaps this explains some of my ambivalence about plantations: there is a lot of good energy on their grounds, too. The spirits.

On my way to my very first plantation visit in Louisiana, I had breakfast in a Shoney's. There was a Cajun family next to me. The guy said, oh, you're going to plantations, watch out, it's going to feel like church! They are going to expect you to worship at the altar of the 'Lost Cause'! But yeah, one can actually feel some different spirits, too.

Stephen Bess said...

michelle-
Hello and thanks for the welcome! :)This is great info and I'll check it out! By the way, the pictures of your time in ATL were nice! I would have loved to say hello to Walter Mosley. He looked like a pimp! lol

profzero-
Wow! Thanks for that! That's a interesting connection to Frederick Douglass. Wow! Yeah, I found it strange that they rent space for Weddings on the Sotterley Plantation. I couldn't imagine getting married there.

ToastedSuzy said...

I'm glad you're back. I look forward to hearing more.

I've been a nomad all my life, and I live now in a town full of nomads--a military town that has always been a "military town."

The history, here, is fascinating to me--it's a history of people passing through. Even the people who got stuck here (like Geronimo) were never a part of the place.
The spirit or the sort of residual vibe left here by all of the great people who have come through seems to be just a really overwhelming feeling of not belonging here and not wanting to be here. It's weird. But it's true, and you can sense it in the way the town looks and feels today--the people, the buildings.

lol

Sounds like I'm just whining, but what I'm really trying to say is this: Because I have been studying the weight (or lack of weight) of the history my patch of geography contains, I am really moved by your photos of the plantation.

I've been trying for a while to explain, or gather together in my mind, the idea of disconnectedness that this town I live in exemplifies. And I think that's part of the reason your pics, and your stories will be so important to me--because they will describe a "connectedness" that I'm missing.

So, anyway, I can't wait to hear about your experience. I can already feel some of the spirit that you and others are talking about here, just looking at the photos, and thinking of that part of the country. (Never been there).

Wow, those pictures you've taken are really poignant--particularly, of course, the flower. Very beautiful.

Very much looking forward to hearing more.

I'll be posting pics and telling wee tales of my little town on my site in the future. I hope I can do as well as you.

TS

NML said...

The view of Chesapeake bay is still one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen. Welcome back my friend. I am a big Maryland lover after staying in Baltimore for 3 months.

urban butterfly said...

I've never visited a plantation before but I would love to! I had no idea of the tourist attractions on the Eastern Shore. I'm going to have to check those out soon, since I live so close.

black feline said...

the last photo is so surreal..only a single stalk?
Many years ago when i was still tiny...we had a rubber plantation in Malaysia...gave up and headed south to Singapore...it's jut not the same..rough and tough terrain..no beautiful landcape...just hard labourers..

Stephen Bess said...

nml-
I'm glad that you like the pictures. I'm going to have to do a B'more shoot for you sometime soon.

ubfly-
Yes, so much to see in this little state. I don't think that we take advantage of what is offered in this area enough.

blkfeline-
Yes, a single stalk. It stood alone in all it's beauty. I've always wanted to visit your part of the world. I know that there is so much to learn

Stephen Bess said...

suzy-
Your comment is an interesting post in itself! Military towns are interesting. It's interesting how the people who live there perceive you and how you perceive them. I was in the Navy 20 years ago and I remember that feeling of being an "outsider" in Norfolk. Norfolk is probably a little more cosmopolitan now, but it was just an old Navy town 20 years ago. Thanks for that.

Cergie said...

Oh ! What do you mean: plantation ? We have so many here in France and each so different: one friend grows wine in Bordeaux, my brother in law grows wine too in the south of France. He has sheeps too and forests.
My husband is an agronomist and next year my younger son will get his agronomist diploma too.
We are surrounded by plantations !!!
Ahaha !

I wonder even how it may be possible to visit an exploitation !

Stephen Bess said...

cergie-
Good question! I can't assume that everyone would know what the word "plantation" entails here in America. Well, here in the American South plantations were concentration camps for millions of Africans that were stolen in order to work the cotton, tobacco, etc. In other words, they provided free labor for over 300 years. There are still corporations that exist today that have grown rich through that free labor. I, along with millions of other black Americans, am a descendant of those enslaved Africans.

Stephen Bess said...

cergie-
"I wonder even how it may be possible to visit an exploitation!"

I think that I live on an exploitation. :)

ToastedSuzy said...

True: Exploitations would be much nicer places to visit than to live in.

I love words.

TS

Stephen Bess said...

suzy-
:) We share that love for words.

Xavier said...

I've been to one plantation and that was in Haiti. A place called Moulin sur Mer (Seaside Windmill). It is now an upscale beach resort of some historical significance and my favorite beach in Haiti. Check out the link.
www.moulinsurmer.com

Stephen Bess said...

xavier-
Thanks for this info! I have a great appreciation, respect and love for Haitian culture. Thank you! I'll check it out.